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We're facing a problem where users aren't using SharePoint as SharePoint - they get a site, then they use explorer view to drag a bunch of folders/ files into "Shared Documents", they add a few people and that's it. No usage of Calendars, metadata, discussion boards, workflows, etc. In essence, they receive no benefit over using a network drive.

We've tried to combat this by:

  1. Making potential site owners watch tutorials and complete practical tests to make sure they can use metadata, etc.
  2. Creating a tutorials site with a lot of video tutorials (>100) accessible to everyone, as well as podcasts etc.
  3. Offering SharePoint education sessions: quick lunch and learns as well as involved full afternoon courses
  4. Establishing governance on how SharePoint is to be used (collaborative environment, 'living' documents, etc).
  5. Periodically trimming (deleting or archiving) old content

Try as we might, there are many, many people who just pump 'n dump some documents in via Explorer View and don't use any other aspect of SharePoint.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't get them to drink. How are you getting your horses to drink? (The SharePoint Kool-aid)

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Your focus shouldn't be on getting people to use SharePoint as SharePoint, because the goal shouldn't be to use SharePoint.

Instead the focus should be on helping the users getting their business problems solved. Some of these problems may be solved by using SharePoint as SharePoint in which case they should have help doing that. If you keep focusing on helping the users solve their problems and hopefully are able to show them that a lot of it can be done by using SharePoint, then at some point some of them may start wanting to explore/extend SharePoint themselves, at that point you should be ready to give the guidance and help.

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Very nicely put! My experience is that if you force SP on the users, they will resist it or start complaining about it. – Hossein Aarabi Jul 16 '12 at 17:11
This is great advice, thanks Per. We've tried this approach with a few groups with some success, however a big drawback is the increased support overhead; our SharePoint team is myself and one other person, and as we create more solutions, we have to support those as well - sometimes after a site owner has modifed the solution into a non-working state. It can be a challenge to provide good support on top of daily administration and general support for 4000 people.\ – Nik Craik Jul 16 '12 at 17:50
If you get all 4000 to activily use SharePoint, then you might need to hire a third person (maybe even more). But yes SharePoint isn't a tool everybody can use without help. But if it doesn't solve a problem people have why should they then use it? One of the best options for easy wins is probably search, are you doing anything in that area? – Per Jakobsen Jul 16 '12 at 18:03
Definitely agree about the hire, we've been fighting to get a third person for some time. We aren't doing anything at the moment beyond enterprise search/ enterprise search center. – Nik Craik Jul 17 '12 at 12:00

Here are some other ideas you can use to increase SharePoint usage:

0) Force the users home page to go to the portal via group policy (you will see why below)

1) If you can get upper management to use it, then the rest of the crowd will be more willing to use it: See if you can convince upper management to use an Announcement list that goes out to everyone's email instead of a direct email employees. Put this announcement on the portal home page. Everyone will see the announcements because of step 0 and once this happens over time, they will grow accustomed to this.

2) On this same home page - talk to the human resources and public affairs people to keep fresh pictures of employees or local org events on this page. Sometimes an employee of the month, or employee spotlight. Highlight people doing good things in your organization and keep the content fresh. Ask managers to highlight the people doing good things and getting recognition among their peers. Change the story every week or so. People will read this because if step 0 and you will have a backlog of stories because everyone wants their people to be on the front page.

3) Get your portal site structure and global navigation to mimic your organizations org chart. The closer you can do this, the more sense your site will make to people and they will start navigating to other areas and checking out content. Keep on top of this every month - users hate to see stale links or an old group name. Don't be afraid to archive content that isn't used anymore and get rid of the old names. Because of step 0, they will likely want to see what is new areas of the organization they care about.

4) Take advantage of the social pieces : presence, My Sites. If they are forced to go there with step 0 - they will see who else is there or was there recently. You can make a nice knowledge base of employee skills with the My Sites. Also with correct clean active directory, you can have your employee org chart display on the my sites pages. Pass the digital camera around and make everyone put their picture up. The helps people put faces with names.

5) There are ways to change desktops to search SharePoint using connectors. The more people search your portal, the more they will find on it and return to it in the future.

By forcing them to go to the portal throughout the day (searches, browser home page, notes from management) and keeping the content fresh and relevant, the users will get used to going back and eventually will contribute to the kool aid party.

Hope this helps.

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This is all good advice, thanks! – Nik Craik Jul 17 '12 at 12:01

As Per Jakobsen said, you should advertise SharePoint as their answer to the business problems. But furthermore, find ways that will make SharePoint look attractive by showing them that SharePoint can centralize data, keep it safe and cost effective, and easy to use.

You don't want to wow them with all the features SharePoint has to offer until you connect with them on how they can use it. Most users won't see the connecting dots until you explain how to connect them. Don't tell them what SharePoint can add for them, but tell them what SharePoint can solve or simplify specific business processes.

What has worked for our company is designate SharePoint delegates that act as SharePoint content owners in each department/division, that will help others to get on board. Train them fully and get them excited about SharePoint. They might see a problem that SharePoint can solve better because they will know how the dept does its process.

Have you established a successful navigation tree?

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Hi Mike, totally agree, and we've taken this approach - identifying power users who have a natural affinity for SharePoint or who are otherwise motivated to be subject matter experts. Unfortunately this has only met with moderate success: in one case, the Power Users sold SharePoint and its capabilities successfully to their users, but management didn't get it and resorted to using it much like a network drive; in the other case, the Power User went a little overboard and now has made a solution that is more often than not broken and has increased our support overhead significantly. – Nik Craik Jul 16 '12 at 17:54
What do you mean by broken? Unstructured? – Mike Jul 16 '12 at 19:32
Unstructured, largely unplanned, and experiencing some bad scope creep. For example a few lists that started out with ~25 columns and a few hundred items now have 97 columns with over 6000 items - it started as a list to keep track of customers but has evolved into tracking several other things as well. – Nik Craik Jul 17 '12 at 11:58
That's where you have a list for customers, then other lists that use that customer list as a linked list that tracks......well, whatever that category is. – Mike Jul 17 '12 at 14:37
Indeed. What happened was we got the user trained up both internally and from a SP education provider, we were confident they were knowledgeable and gave them freedom to develop OOTB solutions - they're a business analyst so it made sense. A few months later they came back with that. Now we have to convince them to do things the 'right' way :) – Nik Craik Jul 18 '12 at 12:49

Oooops, guys, are you serious in discussing how to hate IT and and IT-related professions?

It is not the IT personnel that invent unwarranted and unasked things and impose how to make happy others, it is managers on the basis of business analysis (with the help biz analysts) and underlying biz processes and discovered necessities decide what IT workers should implement and support as well as stipulate what their subordinates use.

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This is an interesting topic, as we're often faced with that dilemma: Do we go to teams and pitch them SharePoint services that they may or may not need? Or do we wait for them (managers, business analysts) to come to us and ask 'Can this be done in SharePoint'? – Nik Craik Jul 17 '12 at 13:23
I'd strongly suggest the option "with the help of business analysts". I'd say we are limiting ourselves as critical solvers if we leave others to the thinking. – Mike Jul 17 '12 at 14:36

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